● PATRICK RUELL – Death Takes the Low Road. Hutchinson, UK, hardcover, 1974. Mysterious Press, US, paperback, 1987.

   A somewhat banal tale, but that’s the only thing that’s at all commonplace about this book. An almost Buchanesque tale of pursuit, the pursued (from the Highlands southwards) being one William Blake Hazlett, a University Registrar who may have a dark side to his life, and his girlfriend, Caroline Nevis, a determined young research student from the colonies (well, they were once!).

   Lots of pace, lots of action, lots of humour. Reminiscent of the later on form Michael Innes. Very enjoyable.

● PATRICK RUELL – Urn Burial. Hutchinson, UK, hardcover, 1975. Foul Play, US, hardcover, 1987.

   I wish I’d tumbled rather earlier to the fact that Ruell is Reginald Hill’s alter ego, Ruell being Hill’s less deductive, more active manifestation.

   Urn Burial concerns ambiguous local government man Sam Lakenheath and delightful fat girl archeologist Zeugma Gray. The scene is set on Thirlsike Waste, a remote and windswept area of Northern Britain where is disused research centre attracts strange people and stranger happenings.

   Mr. Ruell certainly has a talent to amuse and the even rarer talent of leavening the humour (and action) with sinister ingredients. The whole makes first class and riveting reading, and, as a bonus to those so inclined, the villains are of the archest and the natural is mingled with the supernatural. Super stuff.

● REGINALD HILL – A Pinch of Snuff. Collins, UK, hardcover. 1978. Harper, US, hardcover, 1978. Dell, US,paperback, 1984.

   Inspector Pascoe, imaginative, literate, sensitive; Superintendent Dalziel, ruthless, devious — quite a combination. even though they don’t always seem too keen on combining.

   The snuff in this investigation (their fourth, I think) is not at all what you might imagine, as our heroes become involved in the murky world of vice and porno films. And Mr. Hill is as devious as Dalziel and as literate as Pascoe in unraveling the mystery surrounding the filmed murder of one of the porno starlets.

   The author is rapidly becoming one of my favourites.

– Reprinted from The Poison Pen, Volume 6, Number 1 (Spring 1984).